8 Easy Steps to Plan and Complete a Successful Project

Read time: 10 minutes

Projects are notorious for missing the mark. Budgets bloat, timelines slip, and deliverables stray farther than a toddler at the park. While there’s lots of literature on the science and discipline of project management, navigating the ley lines of 8 fundamentals will increase your chances of project success dramatically.

You’ll note the holy trinity of project management – requirements, money, and time – occupy some of the top spots. You’ll also notice that they do not stand alone. All 8 fundamentals work symbiotically to support the project as a whole.

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1. Define It

You can’t deliver what can’t be described. Take the time to articulate what you’re delivering in writing. This doesn’t have to have all the technical details, but it does need to paint a 30,000-foot picture.

“Project House Cat will produce a 3D printed, weatherproof sleeping structure with a water feature and catnip bed”.

2. Chunk It

The maxim of breaking things into bite-sized chunks and managing them is so quoted it’s almost cliché. But cliches get repeated precisely because they do have some truth to them.

Take your project definition, put it on a whiteboard, brainstorm all the constituent parts needed to get from start to finish, and put them in logical order. For example:

  1. AutoCAD new Cat House
  2. Use specs from AutoCAD
  3. Procure enough polymer to 3D print Cat House
  4. Talk to cat and explain how house is coming

3. Clock It

Assign times to each chunk of work you broke out in step 2. You already put them in logical order, so now you just need to quantify how much time it will take and mark it up on a timeline.

  • How long will it take to AutoCAD the new house?
  • How long to setup the 3D printer?
  • How much time will you have to spend talking to the cat? Will you have to talk to the cat more than once?

Related: 4 Tips to Make Your Estimates More Valuable

4. Cost It

Now you’re ready to generate some costs for your project. Using the pieces you chunked out from above, gather your numbers. Calculate your labour costs, your materials, and other expenses. This will be your starting number to compare against your costs as your project unfolds.

5. People It

Your project has been defined, chunked, clocked, and costed. Now, while your project trinity (time, cost, requirements) might always be in the forefront, without people, it’s not going anywhere. It’s time to get your resources on board.

  • Who’s doing the AutoCAD work?
  • Who’s working with the cat?
  • How are your resources logging their hours and submitting them?
  • How are you keeping your channels of communication open?

Related: How Top Draw Uses FP to Avoid Productivity Pitfalls

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6. Watch It

With a resourced, costed, quantified, and well-defined project under way, you need to focus on monitoring. How are your financials and your schedule? This week versus last week? Any outliers?

Being over-budget or behind schedule are both red-flags that demand attention – but there are others as well. Drastically under budget or ahead-of-schedule projects may seem fine at face value – but are they? Are corners getting cut, has scope changed without approval?

7. Talk About It

An irony of communication is that while it’s one of the fundamentals of keeping projects afloat, it’s often the first to be sidelined when issues hit. To make sure there’s smooth-sailing when the waves hit:

  • Identify your stakeholders early
  • Setup agreed channels of communication
  • Engaged those communication channels throughout the project lifecycle
  • Garner agreement about communication from everyone up-front.Is email the preferred medium? In- person meetings? Phone conference?

Remember, communication channels ramp up with each person added. This formula denotes the number of channels, where n is the number of people: n (n – 1) /2. With 5 people, you have 20 possible channels. With 10 people, you have 45.

See What Success Looks Like

Find out how FP can help your team deliver
every project on-time and on-budget.

8. Even Better If

Once you’ve rolled out your project, your work isn’t complete! As part of the project completion process, you need to meet with your stakeholders and go through an “even better if” session. It’s an informal session where you ask people how things could have been better – from the planning phase to rollout.

Projects, like firework displays, can produce amazing results when wrapped in communication and planning, and end in disaster when they’re left to self-manage. With the 8 steps above, you have the foundation to springboard each of your projects to success.